UK patients could soon get medical treatment in any of the 27 European Union member states if plans to open up the market, as currently being considered by the European Commission, go ahead.

A spokesperson for the EC has confirmed to PharmaTimes UK News that the Commission is planning to adopt a new framework for cross-border healthcare, which would effectively allow UK patients to travel abroad for treatment and vice versa.

As the directive is still in its draft form and proposals are not due for publication until December 19, the spokesperson was unable to comment on the finer details of what it might contain. But, according to a report in The Telegraph, if the plans are given the green light then patients wishing to receive treatment abroad would merely have to fork out for travel and accommodation, as well as any differences in charges for the procedure between the country’s health service and the NHS.

Furthermore, patients will only be allowed access to drugs funded by their own healthcare system, and domestic patients will get priority over foreigners should there be a waiting list, the paper claims.

Public consultation
A public consultation on the issue was launched back in September. Explaining the move towards an open market for health, European Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said that, although patients normally prefer to be treated a close to home as possible, the care needed is sometimes best provided in another EU country.

To this end, he stressed the importance of a “clear, practical framework” to enable patients to best take advantage of cross-border healthcare where it is the best solution. “This will also help to unlock huge potential for European cooperation to help improve efficiency and effectiveness of all EU health systems, whilst respecting national responsibility for their organisation and financing,” he concluded.

But concerns over whether the move might lead to an exodus of patients from the UK to other European nations perceived to offer better healthcare are already coming to the fore.